International Educator - November/December 2014 - 44

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FOREIGN STUDENT AFFAIRS
By Marian Kisch

Helping Faculty Teach
International Students
ON A U.S. CAMPUS a female student from the United States is assigned to head a group in which

Saudi men are participants. A Japanese woman complains about the directness and perceived
bossiness of team members in a class project. An international student is confused about references, such as Daffy Duck, that were used in a lecture.

Lack of basic
English skills
can hamper
international
students from
speaking up in
class or doing
well in their
academic
courses.

44  

Cultural differences are only one of several challenges
facing college and university instructors as more and
more international students arrive on their campuses.
The increase has been significant over the past several
years-from 191 in 2006 to 497 in 2013 at James Madison
University (JMU) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from 220 in
2007 to 520 in 2014 at the University of San Diego (USD),
from 293 in 2005 to 436 in 2013 at the University of St.
Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, Minnesota, and from 561 in
2008 to 1158 in 2013 at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma
(TU). In fact, TU ranks fifth in the nation for the largest
percentage of international undergraduate students by
U.S. News and World Report. At Virginia Commonwealth
University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, more than 1,500
international students are now studying at the institution,
up almost 35 percent from 2006.
Students in the United States hail from more than 60
countries, but Saudi Arabia and China are the predominant ones. India, Vietnam, South Korea, Mexico, Kuwait,
Angola, Oman, and Canada are also well represented.
Business and engineering are the top choices for international students. At TU petroleum engineering accounts
for more than half the international population (many
students are sponsored by their governments or oil companies), with business programs growing in popularity,
especially by the Chinese.
"The faculty is looking at substantial changes in enrollment of international students within a short period of
time," Cheryl L. Matherly, vice provost for global education at TU, says. At the same time, she points out that the
impact on enrollment is not equally distributed across the
TU campus. Business has seen a spike of 50 percent and
petroleum is oversubscribed. Arts and science classes are
rising, but there's been little impact on computer science.

INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR N O V + D E C .14

"It's never been an issue," she says, "that international students shouldn't be here; rather, teachers are concerned
how to deliver the best quality education."

Wide Array of Challenges
With all this diversity, what challenges do university professors face when dealing with international students in
their classrooms? Academic integrity ranks number one,
relating mostly to plagiarism and citation. Lori Friedman, director of international student services at UST,
says: "Many students come from countries where they
are taught to spit back what the experts-professors-
tell them. They're not used to paraphrasing or citing their
sources when preparing research papers."
Many live in a "collectivist" society where not sharing
answers is going against the cultural norm, she says. "Here
we call it cheating; they call it sharing."
Amber Bennett Hill, director of international student and
scholar programs at VCU, agrees. "International students
come with different expectations about what is acceptable
and what is cheating. Americans learn about plagiarism
from kindergarten, whereas students from other countries
may be used to citing facts without citing sources."
Group work is another source of concern. Cultural
norms, such as the separation of women and men in
countries like Saudi Arabia, can lead to difficulties when
working on a project with U.S. students. And the way
Americans work in groups is foreign to some international
students who are reluctant to express their own opinions
because that may be discouraged in their home countries.
At USD a Japanese student was upset about the perceived bossiness of the people in her group, according
to Greg Grassi, associate director, office of international
students and scholars. In Japan, tasks were assigned in



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